January 8, 2016 at 4:15PM

194

Have systems like the Ronin and MoVi killed Steadicam?

Steadicam owner operators used to be highly sought-after. Their experience, ability, and equipment provided unparalleled camera movement and freedom. Now anyone can rent a Ronin or a MoVi and produce similar footage, with even fewer restrictions (like the ability to do a hand-off, low shots, or jib-style movements). Is there still any benefit to owning and operating a Steadicam these days?

34 Comments

Gimbals still require practice to learn how to use them, but the learning curve is much shorter than learning how to use a Stedicam.

Right now Stedicam systems are better for larger cine cameras, but a new generation of gimbals is coming out every 6 months, so I expect to see Stedicams fade out within 5 years. ( within 5 years gimbals should be able to do everything Stedicams can do and maybe more )

January 9, 2016 at 9:41AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33037

I still think Steadicam's would be required in special cases for 35mm and 65mm film cameras as well as the IMAX camera and Alexa 65 and Sony F65 since I can't imagine those camera's being on gimbals

January 15, 2016 at 2:15AM

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Matt Nunn
Amateur
463

Well, I am a Steadicam operator and owner. As well, I own the Ronin. I know those discussions. Let me share my experience with you.

First, both systems have their place in a production, but still too many people compare a traditional Steadicam and a Ronin too hard. You cannot. Those are different tools, like a small jib and a 40 feet crane. You get different looks from each system.

The Steadicam, Glidecam,… can handle large and heavy cameras, for example a fully loaded 35mm camera, an ARRI Alexa or common broadcast cameras. You will never be able to put those cameras into an electronic gimbal system (and even if you could, they were too heavy, so no advantages over a traditional Steadicam. A fully loaded Ronin is already too heavy!).

Now the important difference:
A Steadicam has a much more organic movement. It looks much more pleasant than a Ronin. In particular 360° moves are much nicer with a Steadicam. If you showed me two clips, I could tell you which one used a Steadicam and which one a Ronin.

A Ronin is too straight, nice if you need to replace a dolly track on uneven terrains in a short time. But you still may fight with jitters from the motors. And while on location, if the system breaks you’re really f**** up. This cannot happen with a Steadicam, because it is an entire passive system. And, you need no batteries and no app for configuration.

The Steadicam is lighter for travelling. The Ronin in its case is about 66lbs, my Steadicam which can handle cameras up to 45lbs is only 22lbs in a light bag.
And with Ronin, you need all wireless to avoid cables hanging around and disturbing the system. On the Steadicam, you just have cables running invisible through the tube.

The Ronin isn’t that “ready to shot” as promised. You need to assemble your stuff, put the handle on, put the monitor on, pre-balance the camera on the dove tail, calibrate with an app that must be connected before etc etc. It sucks. If you in a hurry, the Ronin just doesn’t work. A Steadicam is much more solid build and faster to set up. In particular, if you need to change the lens in the field.

I would say regarding my work:
95% Steadicam for most of the time,
5% Ronin for situations, where a dolly is technical hard to set up.

So, no... Steadicam will never die.

January 9, 2016 at 11:41AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
2068

The largest gimbal systems right now can handle a 35-40 lb camera package, and I expect the weight capacity will increase over the next few years...

http://goo.gl/2f2Tii

January 9, 2016 at 1:06PM, Edited January 9, 1:07PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33037

Not an advantage over a traditional Steadicam in case of one-man-operation, isn't it? You require a body support to carry the entire weight. More stuff to carry around compared to a Steadicam.

The Ronin and other system where originally designed for light weight, ready-to-shoot and quick balancing. A higher load capacity makes nonense of the entire system. The only value I see here is replacing expensive gyro heads on Russian Arms.

You cannot replace a Steadicam. A Ronin neiher looks organic nor it can be swung around like a Steadicam. A Ronin is a nice replacement for dolly.... for light weight cameras as Arri Alexa Mini or a RED - but only for short shots.

January 10, 2016 at 2:24AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
2068

>>>More stuff to carry around compared to a Steadicam.

Just try and fly a 30-40lb camera on a Stedicam with NO Stedicam Arm or Vest and you will instantly find out that it's next to impossible to hand-hold a 50lb Stedicam package without this support gear.

This gimbal support gear functions in the same way, but it's made for gimbals.

January 10, 2016 at 3:38PM, Edited January 10, 3:48PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33037

Yes, the Steadicam needs a body support. But the Ronin as well. In particular, if the load capacity increases in the future for gimbals.

As mentioned earlier: A Steadicam is lighter than a Ronin and faster to set up. And a Steadicam requires less gear to get it work.

January 11, 2016 at 6:36AM, Edited January 11, 6:37AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
2068

Totally agree on most points here, though I would argue that a gimbal is easier to learn and more forgiving of operator errors than working with a Stedicam.

January 11, 2016 at 10:45AM, Edited January 11, 10:45AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33037

It being more forgiving is why it doesn't look as good. It overcorrects and makes everything look rigid and artificial. Same thing happens when you overdo Warp Stabilizer.

It's just not as good. Just because it's easy to use doesn't make it the best thing since sliced bread. You keep trying to use its easy of use as an excuse for weaker images, and it's BS.

Hire a steadycam operater.

January 12, 2016 at 6:59AM

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Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer
1264

What steadycam are you using and what is your camera payload? I was looking at the Glidecam 4000 for my Panasonic GH2 with battery pack, Voigtlander lens, Samyang 10mm T3.1 etc. What is your advise on purchasing a steadycam?

January 10, 2016 at 12:11AM

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Tony Louis
Filmmaker/Director/Photographer
147

The HD-4000 is a very nice tool for GH2 (or any other small cam). Because of its light weight you do not need a vest and a spring arm. The HD-4000 is small and nice for travelling (e.g. by air). And if your camera changes, you can upgrade the system by a vest and a spring arm.

A lot of people say that Glidecam is worse over the brand "Steadicam". But I think: if you know your tool, you can get great shots. It is like learning a string instrument - it is not easy, but once mastered.... nice!

You just need to know how to balance such systems! I have seen a lot of Steadicam/Glidecam tutorials... horrible ones where people just did not balance the system correctly and hold the system wrong - expecting wonders. Yeah.... those people recommend systems like a Ronin, because they just no trained Steadicam operators.

Th HD-4000 is fine. You can micro adjust the platform in both axis and fasten them via knurled screws.

January 10, 2016 at 2:34AM, Edited January 10, 2:36AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
2068

Hi Jeffrey, is there a tutorial for balancing (or operating) light steadycams (like the HD-4000) that you can recommend? Thanks!

January 15, 2016 at 2:52AM

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I'm glad someone is talking sense here. You strike at what I feel is the heart of the issue. The look of steadycam is very unique and pleasant. It's the same reason people still use 35mm regardless of how many K's and stops of dynamic range the digital cameras boast.

January 10, 2016 at 11:55AM

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Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer
1264

Like said above: they are not the same.
They only have some common territory where they can be used. Without support a gimbal becomes pretty heavy (even a MoVI M15 which weighs about half of what a Ronin weighs... (15lbs payload vs 16 lbs payload capacity). At the same time a gimbal can be used in a team where the camera movement is done by someone else than the operator.

It's just the idea a lot of people have that a gimbal is a 100% steadicam replacement, but that doesn't make it true ;)

January 10, 2016 at 6:11AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9766

>>>It's just the idea a lot of people have that a gimbal is a 100% steadicam replacement

Gimbals are currently immature technology, but I can see them eventually replacing Stedicams as the technology gets more sophisticated as it matures.

Also there are shots which a gimbal can do that would be difficult to do with a Stedicam...

The Hand-Off : where one gimbal operator seamlessly hands the gimbal to another operator and the shot continues. ( I've seen operators hand gimbals through windows, from somebody walking/running to somebody on the back of a motor-cycle, etc... )

The Gimbal Mount : Many gimbals can be mounted on the end of a jib with the gimbal operated remotely by a person standing next to the jib ( or the jib operator ), I've also seen gimbals mounted on the side or roof of a car with the gimbal operated by somebody in the same car or another car that is following the "gimbal" car, I've also seen gimbals mounted on large RC cars that can zip around at 30 mph at 6 inches off the ground, and lastly you can mount a gimbal on to a flying drone to get shots that would be very difficult to produce any other way.

January 10, 2016 at 3:58PM, Edited January 10, 3:59PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33037

I agree with Jeffrey 100%. That said, for me it depends where we are filming. In NYC, I have not once broken out our Steadicam system since the Ronin/Movi/Etc. But our NYC shoots tend to be smaller, faster affairs, and in those cases with my style it's mainly replacing situations where we'd need dolly or sometimes jib. However, on my own films in LA or wherever, or in situations where I want a more organic look, it's Steadicam all the way, and gimbal as-needed.

January 10, 2016 at 3:46PM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.

I agree with most of the discussion above as well; they're different tools for different purposes. I've worked with the Ronin and Ronin-M, when looking for a very compact setup, in tight, non-conspicuous areas. But I own a steadicam system for most of my other work.

It's like running a plane on auto-pilot: A gimbal guessing your moves works great on a simple controlled path, but you'll never see professional stunt pilots using it during an air show. There's an organic feel and complete control you receive from a Steadicam system that's irreplaceable. From changing the counterbalance to affect how the camera floats, to being able to keep a shot 10 feet in the air, or 2 feet above the ground, without any strain to the operator. And since the entire system is manual, with no computers, batteries, etc. There is no room for glitches, misreads, or halting a shoot because you forgot to charge your gimbal between jobs.

That being said, A gimbal has it's place, and it might become more prominent in film soon, but I don't think you'll be seeing camera ops running around with a gimbal, to replace the iconic Steadicam in the NFL or such, anytime soon.

January 11, 2016 at 6:23PM

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Craig Douglas
Editor/ Videographer
1920

Theyre both very different looks.
sometimes you want that "restriction in movement.

January 11, 2016 at 6:58PM

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Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1662

Its not fair to say That Gimbal Shots have Glitch and not point out the quirks of the steadycam too....what happens when your weight shift on a steadycam? Plus balance and setup times? So it also have its quirks (I have Operated the steadcam a few times i know what i'm talking about.).. dont down play the strength of the technology... The post made on the Popular part of NFS (The one about Guardians of the Galaxy being shot RED 8K) pointed out some stuff about most us comparing old tech to new tech and it is what's killing some level of creativity... Some people are so die hearted film people they cant see the light because we want to believe that film is the superior method of capture. Case in point, interstellar was shot on film and the people who liked the film look are cinephiles, regular people complained about the film scratch and noise. Now That Said, The Gimbal is a Tool that has revolutionized film making especially for indie film makers. All of these things are tools and they have their place. And as time goes by there will be smoother algorithms along with precise motors to correct that same twitch you talking about... and then what? Technology increase, as film makers , we embrace it and improve our visual quality with the new Tech that exist... along with a proper story.

January 12, 2016 at 1:06AM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2828

Even if the technology was 100% flawless...say the evolution of the technology became "perfect"...you would still have to carry it. It will never be the right tool for many many day to day common uses of the steadicam. Steadicam puts the weight in your legs (like a backpack--I'm not talking about a day pack, but a backpacker's backpack). Your legs can carry around 40-70lbs no problems...but half that weight handheld strains your arms and back too much. Steadicam will never die because of this, despite some people misguidedly wanting it in favor of another technology with its own problems and flaws.

March 24, 2016 at 5:11PM, Edited March 24, 5:13PM

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Daniel Mimura
DP, cam op, steadicam op
2358

+1

March 25, 2016 at 5:41AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
2068

Steadicam Operators are skilled technicians. Gimbals are advanced equipment that let unskilled operators achieve stable images. There is more to making compelling images than basic stabilization however and a skilled op will produce better shots everytime, regardless of the tool. Where quality is concerned, the need will always rest with the skilled labour.

January 12, 2016 at 9:25AM, Edited January 12, 9:25AM

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seanmclennan
Story Teller
900

Well said.

January 12, 2016 at 9:36AM

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Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer
1264

As of now gimbals may not replace steadicam. But I strongly feel it is only a matter time they get there, or almost there. It will become kind of like the current situation between film and video; of course one can believe film still has its own distinctive slight edge over video. But, how many filmmakers are wanting that edge today. The gimbal setup can very well advance enough to simulate both kind of looks. Rather different modes in a single ronin setup for example. That what I foresee. As of today, of course steadicam holds it place. It is all a matter of upgrades in software more than hardware( the hardware needs to advance a bit too) for ronin's to get there. You will see steadicam operators eventually becoming Ronin or Movi operators when that day is closer. They sure wont go out of business though because they will adapt. Maybe ronin will never simulate the exact steadicam that you think people will want. But they sure as hell can come close enough to make more and more filmmakers want the ronin setups more than steadicam. It is not a bad thing. It is called advancement. Either way, art of film is only going to get better with the help of technology. Once you start clinging on to one tool or the other and defending it and taking sides, it is not about making your cinema anymore but about tools. Which is a pointless debate IMHO!

January 12, 2016 at 6:22PM, Edited January 12, 6:34PM

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Guy. You seem to like to reply to every post.... opinions are like a-holes, everyone's got one. My question is, do you use steadycams and gimbals professionally on a daily basis?

If not, perhaps let those who do field this one.

January 13, 2016 at 11:51AM

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LJ
706

Guy McLoughlin, I strongly suspect that LJ and Ninja Monkey are the same person, never a good word or anything positive to contribute to discussion. Maybe not trolls of the worst kind, but trying to start arguments and false information is the agenda. This is my opinion, based on my observations over many discussions.

January 13, 2016 at 2:33PM

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Accusing people of spreading false information because they disagree with you is not only unhelpful, it is distasteful. This is the second time you've done this today. Cut it out.

January 13, 2016 at 3:14PM

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Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer
1264

I thought this was a simple yes or no question no? But my answer is IDK. =)

January 13, 2016 at 5:03PM

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Keith Kim
Photographer
1555

Gimbals are also becoming the go-to option when shooting a lot of action sports shots, especially freeskiing and snowboarding, where the most important thing is to have steady and flowing shots. Cameras are getting smaller and gimbals are getting more advanced, and a lot of DOPs and operators are already starting to work with gimbals without prior steadicam experience.

January 14, 2016 at 12:28AM

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Sebastian Kammonen
Filmmaker
328

No, they haven't. Different aesthetics, different applications. Both are great. When the Steadicam came out, it was just as overused as gimbals are now. Both are just another tool to get great camera movement, but they are similar but not the same.

January 14, 2016 at 8:27PM

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Sam C.
74

Steadicam operations rely on operator's muscle memory and hundreds of intricate decisions made on the fly by the operator. Gimbals are essentially engineered to compensate for camera movements. Horrible analogy, but this is basically comparing driving a rally car, where the driver and co-driver makes most of the decisions, with an extremely comfortable sedan where most decisions made by the computer on the fly.
We're in the business of details, and most people excel in the industry because of their attention to details. Gimbals such as Movi & Ronin are revolutionary steps towards camera stabilization, but steadicam is currently still the tool that allows specialists control over details. However, then again, when we become predecessors and dinosaurs in the industry maybe this conversation just shows how dated technology was back in 2016.

January 16, 2016 at 8:34PM

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Robin S.
Director / DP
81

It's not the technology that's important, it's the knowledge base that matters. Great Steadicam operators are the prima ballerinas of the film world, but, they are drawing on the patient work of camera operators all over the world developing techniques and sharing secrets for the last 30 years. In other words, what you see on set is not a person, but an embodiment of the collective wisdom of two generations of cameramen and women.
So I think we'll see the gimbal people replace the Steadicammers over about the same time period.

March 25, 2016 at 9:31AM

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Richard Swearinger
Freelancer
41

"So I think we'll see the gimbal people replace the Steadicammers over about the same time period."

People also asserted that the Steadicam will replace dolly shots (in 1980s).
People also asserted that the Steadicam will replace tripods (in 1980s).
People also asserted that a slider replaces a dolly (in 1980s).
People also asserted that a drone replaces a crane (last couple of years).
People also asserted that film will be replaced by digital cameras soon (with introducing Sony F65).
People also asserted that greenscreen can be replaced by rotoscoping (since digital rotoscoping is possible).

Well, untenable assertions by people who do not know that each tool has its specific purpose.
Sure, you can achieve similar shots with different tools depending on the effort and the budget.
But each tool has its own irreplaceable and filmic esthetic.

For example:
a straight Steadicam shot looks still smoothly and organically. A dolly shot does also as well.
A Ronin shot does not. It looks too perfect and not human. If you like such esthetic, then a Ronin is the perfect tool for you.

But I like shots which are an esthetic and homogenous part of the entire scene.

March 27, 2016 at 4:12AM, Edited March 27, 4:13AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
2068

wow I know I'm late but this was an interesting topic. Reminds me of the ole film vs. digital debate LOL. If I spent my career learning how to use the Steadicam and actually becoming an operator, then I too would not like talk of it disappearing. But we live in fast times and thing change and gimbals will be the way of the future. Obviously both have pros and cons but still make great production tools (thats why they are around) .

I see a lot of post talking about what is WRONG with gimbals, but these post fail to take into account that gimbals, as they are being used now, have been around for less than 5 years. While the Steadicam was created in 1979 I believe. So lets put that into perspective.

Also man that NinjaMonkey guy/dude is very rude. I don't believe he is still allowed on this great site with such bad vibes and attitude. This is not the first time I've seen NinjaMonkey behave like this either.

February 8, 2017 at 6:30PM

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Adam Arad
Cinematogrpher
220

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